Yesterday I received an email from someone I know on the internet only. This person and I have exchanged a few emails in the last few days. At the end of my last email to him I found myself having to apologise for sounding bitchy, which I told him was really frustration. In his reply he said that I didn’t come across as bitchy at all and then he gave me an example of “real” bitchiness.

He had chosen an example that leaned (heavily) towards suicide. Deep inside I knew that he was only joking, but he didn’t actually say that until the very end. The example was long. The further I read, the more distressed I got. My mind couldn’t distinguish for sure if he was seriously telling me that he was suicidal or that there was another reason for telling me this stuff. Inside, I felt nauseated and confused. Several times I stopped reading and went to delete the email, but then I thought that he might be serious and I couldn’t ignore that … so I kept reading.

Six months ago, I probably would have thought nothing of the email. I would have taken it for what it was – light hearted messing around. But yesterday, having open wounds from having a son die by suicide only five months ago, it felt like the words physically abused me. By that, I don’t mean the person who wrote them, I mean the actual words themselves. It was like torture.

The words ended, the writer turned to the real reason for emailing me and all was well. For him. For me, the “joke” left me in such a state that I found it difficult to concentrate and I remained physically ill in the stomach for hours. The “joke” wasn’t funny. Not in the slightest.

Last night, I had to reply to the real section of the email. I thought about what I’d say about the “example of bitchiness” for the longest time. I wavered between ignoring it altogether and expressing as quickly and as politely as I could that it didn’t come over well. I did both (deleting and then retyping the section in question when I changed my mind, more than once). Finally, I decided that I had to let him know that his words hurt me. So eventually I reminded him of my loss and that as my suffering is still only in the beginning stages, I found his words distressing. I left it at that.

As it happens, I had to email him twice last night. This morning I expected to find a reply in my inbox (concerning the real reason for emailing), but didn’t get one. Now I’m left wondering if my words hurt him, or does he feel ashamed, or maybe it’s just that he doesn’t know what to say to me. On the other hand, maybe he’s busy and hasn’t even seen the emails yet. Whatever the reason, I don’t need this added pressure. I shouldn’t have to deal with it.

What’s the point of this post?

No matter how wacky your sense of humour, no matter how funny you think something is, remember that not everyone is the same. Remember to think about what’s going on in the other person’s life before you “joke” with them. You might mean it light heartedly, you might only be trying to get them to smile, you might do it for the purest of reasons, but sometimes we have to avoid certain sensitive subjects. I know that I’ve said on this blog that people should be themselves at all times. I stand by that, but please use some common sense.

Think about the consequences of your actions…or in this case, your words. You might be ripping the heart out of someone that you really didn’t want to hurt.